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Gingrich slammed politicians ‘beholden’ to Freddie Mac, while working as a pitchman

By Carol Eisenberg

December 9, 2008 at 11:16am

What could he have been thinking?

Back in September, when Congress was debating the first financial bailout, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich went on Fox News to decry how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had so “many politicians beholden to them” that no one would step up to protect American taxpayers.

Sounding like an earnest reformer, Gingrich said the bailout should be rejected unless it expressly forbade companies receiving federal money from hiring lobbyists.

“I mean, what you have today is that the rich in Wall Street and the powerful at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had so many politicians beholden to them that, in fact, nobody was going to check them,” he said on Fox. “And so they got away with things that were absolute bologna, and it’s a tragedy.”

But what the former 10-term Georgia congressman failed to say is that he had direct knowledge of such arrangements as a former Freddie Mac pitchman himself.

The Associated Press reports that in 2006, Freddie Mac paid Gingrich a six-figure sum to push back against tough, new regulations of the mortgage company at a time the Bush administration was concerned about how big the two government-backed mortgage giants had become.

In an effort to stave off regulation, Freddie Mac enlisted prominent conservatives, among them, Gingrich and former Justice Department official Viet Dinh, paying each $300,000, according to AP.

Gingrich touted the benefits of the Freddie Mac business model in both talks and writings aimed at his network.

Dinh wrote a legal analysis of private property rights that viewed a hypothetical government-enforced sale of Freddie Mac assets as constitutionally suspect, wrote reporter Peter Yost.

Their fees were part of $11.7 million Freddie spent on 52 lobbyists and consultants in 2006 alone, AP found.

And that was just a part of it for Gingrich, for whom the Freddie Mac contract was a return engagement.

TPMMuckraker found a 1999 story in American Banker, a trade publication, that said Gingrich had recently been hired by Freddie “to provide strategic counsel on a range of issues,” according to a company spokesman.

Which all goes to prove the wisdom of that free-market maxim: ‘Caveat emptor’ - Let the buyer beware. Or, in this case, perhaps, the listener of Gingrich’s latest talking points.

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